07/04/2013 12:24PM

Arlington Sprint: Saint Leon, Chamberlain Bridge defy aging process

Four-Footed Fotos
Saint Leon is back to defend his title in the Arlington Sprint as an 8-year-old turf sprinter.

ARLINGTON HEIGHTS, Ill. – Thoroughbreds 8 and 9 years old are like humans in their early to mid-30’s. It’s an age well past peak-performance level, and horses that old still on the racetrack usually are stable ponies or blue-collar claimers. This is even truer of sprinters: Speed often is the first thing to go.

Don’t tell that to the old-timers in the $100,000 Arlington Sprint. At age 8, Saint Leon is the 5-2 morning-line favorite to win the 5 1/2-furlong turf race for the second year in a row, but to do so, front-running Saint Leon probably will have to hold clear a late challenge from 9-year-old Chamberlain Bridge. Chamberlain Bridge won the 2010 Arlington Sprint, and in addition to his second-place finish last year, he was second in the 2009 edition won by 9-year-old Yankee Injunuity, who also is among the nine entrants Saturday.

Saint Leon has lost none of his speed to time: In his only 2013 start, he laid down hot splits in a high-end Arlington Polytrack allowance race and won by three lengths, a performance that produced a 107 Beyer Speed Figure. Saint Leon is the lone true speed horse Saturday, and he has thrived over the Arlington turf course, winning 4 of 5 races. His willingness and capability owe much to owner Margaret Burlingham and trainer Michele Boyce, who have managed Saint Leon with utmost care since Burlingham, one of the horse’s original owners, claimed Saint Leon for just $5,000 four summers ago at Mountaineer. Saint Leon races only a handful of times each year, and when he is on his game – and sharp morning works suggest that continues to be so – he is tough to pass.

Chamberlain Bridge, a one-time $16,000 claimer, has a much better chance than a quick glance at his form suggests. He was eliminated on the turn by a badly bearing-out horse last month at Penn National and has not had a clean trip in five races. Last year at Arlington, when he came within a half-length of catching Saint Leon in the Sprint, Chamberlain Bridge reared at the break, spotting the field several lengths. If he gets away well this time, Chamberlain Bridge can stick close enough to the lead to at least make things close.

Yankee Injunuity has aged well too and exits a win for a $40,000 claiming tag, but he would need a major form leap to threaten Chamberlain Bridge and Saint Leon. The main danger is 4-year-old Hogy, who won Grade 3 Hanshin going a mile on Polytrack last out and is a capable turf sprinter. Hogy did not show his best over the tricky Keeneland grass course in April, finishing sixth in the Shakertown Stakes, but that was his first turf loss in four starts, and Hogy is a danger Saturday from just off the pace.